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Downtown Adventures

Downtown Adventures

I love walking through cities. Now that Spencer is old enough to have more stamina, I can share this with him and explore more of Seattle together. Schools were closed for mid-term break a couple of weeks ago, so I took a vacation day on the Friday. On weekends, downtown Seattle is either packed (Pike Place Market, the Aquarium) or deserted (everywhere else?). Yesterday was a rare chance to go downtown during the week. At the time, we were still searching for a new family bike (more later) and I don’t care for driving and parking downtown, so we took the bus. Kids love the bus – playing fares, getting transfers and pulling the cord to signal your stop are all exciting to them. Before Spencer turned six, he could ride for free on King County Metro, but I’d always give him a coin to drop in the box. The bus drivers were typically good sports about it and would very solemnly give him a paper transfer that he would hold onto all day.
We took the bus to Pioneer Square. Spencer was fascinated by the life-size statues of firefighters.

Our first destination was [storefront] Mushroom Farm. This is a project set up in the lobby of an architectural firm as a demonstration of sustainable agriculture and how one business’s waste product can be another’s resource. The CityLab7 group collected used coffee grounds from local coffee shops over a two week period. he grounds, which are very rich in nutrients were then used as a growth medium for mushrooms.  

Examining the coffee grounds. This was before the mushroom spores were added, right? Right?

The inoculated coffee grounds were packed into bags and brought to the coolest greenhouse you’ve ever seen. Built of reclaimed wood and plastic, it’s set up in the street-level space near Pioneer Square that is owned by an architectural firm. As an aside, do you call a mushroom chamber a greenhouse? They need to be warm and humid, but don’t need light.

My friend Chris is part of the CityLab7 group and was on hand to show us the greenhouse and answer questions like “How big to they grow?” and “Are you a mushroom farmer?”. My questions were more technical, like “Hey! What’s that white stuff?”. As it turned out, the white stuff was the mycelium, the underground portion of the fungus. The mushroom part that we see (and eat) is the fruiting body, which produces spores. The mushrooms have since appeared, so it should look even cooler now. If the timing and schedules work out, I might get to go back and see it again.

Chris answers Spencer’s many, many questions.

The farm is open to the public 11:30am – 1:30pm on Tues-Fri until Mar. 23. It’s a fascinating project and looks beautiful, so if you get a chance, go see it!

Spencer is growing like a mushroom. The New York Times may have a better camera, but they don’t have a model who’s this cute.
We then walked back through Pioneer Square. A couple of blocks are pedestrian-only, which gave us more scope for activities like chasing birds.
Yes, dear – I’m sure those gulls were VERY frightened.

After we left Pioneer Square, our explorations took us to a rock & fossil shop and a lovely little pocket park with a waterfall. I would have taken more photos, but we’d been walking for a while and lunch was calling. In fact, when I tried to pull out my camera, Spencer said “Mommy! Don’t get distracted!” Our lunch at the Crab Pot and play time at the neighboring arcade are therefore undocumented.

The big attraction of the day was the Seattle Aquarium. They have touching pools, where you can touch sea anemonies, sea stars, sea cucumbers and more. Spencer is asking one of the volunteers questions. Many, many questions.

Our favorite exhibit is the octopus tank, but you never know how much you’ll see – the giant pacific octopus is nocturnal and has excellent camouflage. It can be hard to convince a little kid that a lumpy piece of red rock is actually a sleeping octopus. They’re justifiably skeptical when parents say thing like that. We lucked out that day, though, and got there just before feeding time. The octopus was very active, so everyone got a good view of it, suckers and all.

Come closer for a hug, little boy….

We had a great day downtown. It’s fun to break from our usual routine and activities and I’m going to make a conscious effort to do this more often. As much as I like my neighborhood, there’s much more out there!

We’re grounded

We’re grounded

Update (4/1/12):  Since the crash, I’ve been looking into the issue. It turns out, there was a recall in 2005 because the bolts were too short, and the Trail-a-bike unit could fall off, which sounds awfully familiar. I bought ours from Recycled Cycles in 2009, so it’s certainly possible that it was a recalled unit. The mechanics there couldn’t find a clear way to tell, but intended to replace the hitch before selling it. Anyone buying an Adams at this point is very unlikely to have this problem, but it’s certainly possible.

As in can’t lift off the ground, got a broken wing (NOT a broken bone, luckily enough).

Since I joined the Loop Frame Love collective last spring, I’ve been writing about my adventures riding with my son, Spencer, now 6. We’ve been using an Adams Trail-a-Bike attached to a mountain bike for the past 2-3 years. My son was scared to use it at first, since the seat was higher than his little 12″ wheeler. Plus, there is a noticeable side to side wobble to it, that I could not get get rid of, no matter how much I tightened the connections. So, we took it slow and practiced at the local elementary school, which has a big paved area. Spencer gained confidence quickly – when he started yelling “Go faster, Mommy!”, I was pretty sure that we’d gotten the hang of it. 
We took it slowly the first year, sticking to multi-user paths in nearby parks. Last summer was a big step for us, as we started to use it a lot for trips within the neighborhood (about 2-3 miles round trip) and slowly venturing beyond that to perhaps 4-5 miles total. It’s been fantastic to be able to combine family time with an activity that I love. It also makes trips to the library and the store an adventure, rather than just a series of errands.
I’ve had rather mixed feelings about the Trail-a-bike itself, though. The relatively low price got us into family biking. Cargo bikes and Xtracycles were not even close to being on my radar at that time and I would not have spent that kind of money. It allowed us make the transition from occasional recreational use to weekly, though not daily, transportation use. I eventually asked about the wobble at a bike store and was told that it’s a characteristic of the joint. The universal joint does make it easier to take a tighter turn. However, that plus the wobble, has always meant that Spencer’s motion can swing the balance of both his bike and mine. He’s generally pretty good at staying upright, but will occasionally get spooked if he thinks we’re getting too close to something. He’ll then lean hard the other way, once even shouting “Mommy, I saved us!”. From a parked car, no less. I’ve never fallen over, but I’ve certainly had to quickly put my feet down and grab hard to hold us upright. A nearby friend of ours has an upstairs office that looks over the street, and he’s teased me now and then about the path we were weaving down the street. It’s pretty clear why I avoid bike lanes where we’re squeezed between fast traffic and parked cars, eh? The ability to take the trail-a-bike on and off does have some advantages – it allows me to put it on the car rack and I have been using this bike on my own for transportation purposes. However, as I found, it also increases the potential for problems. 
Last fall, we had a spill. We were riding home on a quiet street, when I could feel Spencer lean one way. Then, a crash. I looked behind me and, to my horror, Spencer and the trail-a-bike were on the ground. I rushed over, helped him up, and did all the parent checks (Where’s the blood? Can you move your arm? How about your leg?). A kind passerby picked up our bikes and moved them to the corner. A woman who lived nearby ran out with a bag of frozen peas. The final tally – a scrape on his elbow, a good scare and a big scrape on his helmet. When I looked at the bikes, I was dumbfounded. All the pieces were intact and, as far as I could tell, undamaged. But separate. How could we have ridden 3-4 miles without it being properly attached? The only explanation I could come up with was that it must be possible to put the hitch most of the way in so that the locking pin passed at the end, but not through the holes. The friction must have held it in until it received a sideways tug. We picked up the pieces and slowly made our way home. I promised Spencer that it wasn’t his fault, he hadn’t broken the bike, and that he could pick out any helmet he liked the next day. 
We did continue to use the trail-a-bike. I added a sideways tug to my pre-ride check to make sure everything was secure and wouldn’t come out. Then, two weeks ago, it fell apart once again, this time while making a turn. As we were picking up the pieces and checking for injuries, two friends rode by on their bikes. They stopped and helped me search the intersection for missing pieces and debris. Once again, we were lucky that we weren’t hurt beyond a couple of bruises and scrapes and that there were no cars nearby at the time.
I have not been able to find any mechanical damage. It could be my error in attaching the hitch. But, I have been using it for over 2 years now AND I’ve made checking the hitch part of my routine for months. If I can make a mistake under these circumstances, there is one hell of a design flaw. We will not be using it again. So, until I find a replacement that I’m happy with, we’re grounded.
A Sweet Start to 2012

A Sweet Start to 2012

We visited our families in Canada over Christmas. It’s always great to see family (though we won’t talk about the trip itself). We were lucky that the weather cooperated – daily highs were about 20F/-5C, which meant we were able to have lots of fun playing in the snow. Still, we were more than ready to get back on our bikes by the time we returned to Seattle. Well, at least I was ready. And Spencer could be bribed. He was very excited to wear his new Lightening McQueen racing suit, courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa (step away from the Disney store and no one will be hurt….). 
Future cyclist of the month?

 While I hooked up the bikes, Spencer practiced his cool Jedi moves with the bike flag.

Vroom, vroom!

The goal of today’s outing was to enjoy the outdoors and get a couple of treats, so we stopped at a local pocket park. We met an senior citizen doing tai chi in the park, who asked about the trail-a-bike. Then, a couple of twin 8-year olds arrived and gave Spencer a spin. For the record, I don’t make Spencer wear his helmet at the park – he loves it and won’t take it off.

Ballard Corners Park

After we were finished at the park, we continued to the commercial district of Ballard. The bakery was closed, so we couldn’t buy bread. However, we could console ourselves with treats at Cupcake Royale. Aside from yummy cupcakes in many flavours, they make some of the best lattes in the neighbourhood. Given the high cupcake to mile ratio, I’m not certain if this trip was a net positive, health-wise, but it was very tasty.

Chocolate with cream cheese icing
This was eaten while wearing a bike helmet. We’re very safety-conscious. 

The nice weather brought out many other cyclists, as you can see by the full bike rack at Ballard Market, a local grocery store. This is a sweet rack – sturdy, lots of capacity, sheltered from the rain and close to the door. However, our rig is a little bit long and stuck out into the parking lot, so I thought it would be wiser to park at the plain, but functional rack that is further to the side.

 

What a sweet ride! 

Upon leaving the store, I was delighted to see a Little Tyke parked at the bike rack. I believe that counts as active transport by anyone’s definition! Particularly for the parent, who probably had to push the kid home. All in all, it was a terrific start to 2012. Happy New Year!

The 6 year old urban planner. Part II.

The 6 year old urban planner. Part II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aurora_Avenue_and_Bridge_Deck_20.jpg

 Sometimes my kid cracks me up. Early this summer I was driving with him on Aurora Blvd. Highway 99 extends both north and south of Seattle, but it then becomes Aurora Blvd, a city street lined with businesses in the north end, before reaching the tunnel and then the Viaduct downtown. For much of its length, this street is a major arterial with four lanes, two in each direction. It carries a high volume of traffic and is a necessary route through the city, but is an awkward hybrid of freeway and city street and is a major barrier for both pedestrians and cyclists.

As we drove south, Spencer asked “Where’s the bike lane?”

“Well”, I replied, “It’s on the sidewalk. People walking and people on bikes have to share.”

Spencer was not pleased with this explanation. “That’s not fair! There isn’t enough room there to walk and ride bikes at the same time!”

Well, Seattle?

Kidical Mass rides in Novembrrr!

Kidical Mass rides in Novembrrr!

After following the Totcycle blog for a couple of years, I finally had a chance to join his Kidical Mass ride last week.  The occasion was the grand opening of the Ship Canal Trial. It’s a great piece of bike infrastructure as it lets people get from Magnolia and the Ballard Locks to the Fremont bridge, without having to take a confusing and not-particularly friendly interchange near the Ballard Bridge.
The forcast was for chilly, with a possibility of rain and/or snow. Chilly by Seattle standards, of course, which translates to 35-40F (2-4C). I hadn’t taken Spencer for a winter ride before, and I was a little concerned about how to dress him. I started digging through the closet to find last year’s winter gear. The snow pants fit great, but were probably unnecessary. Tried to find toques without pompom that would fit under bike helmets. The good mitts were left at karate class. And Spencer’s winter coat looked awfully short in the sleeves. This is when I began to feel like a lousy mother and a lousy Canadian. Didn’t I know that winter was coming? Has it ever skipped a year? In the end, the best solution was to wear last year’s coat and a warm pair of my mitts that were long enough to cover his wrist, even with the somewhat too short sleeves. Extra sweaters, scarfs and toques were added, I packed the pannier, and we were ready to roll.
When we got to the end of the driveway, it became clear that I had overreacted and we were both terribly overdressed. So, we stopped to strip off layers, and my pannier was then stuffed with fleece for the rest of the day. Still, I’m glad we had the mitts and scarf – little bodies get cold quickly. Especially, when they don’t help much with the pedaling. Finally, we were on our way and were only a little bit late to our meeting place at the Ballard Library. 
Spencer was ready to go.

Despite the chilly weather, there was a great turnout. I didn’t get a complete head count, but suspect it must have been about 40 people. And the bikes! There were at least three Madsens, one Bakfiet, a couple of trailers and two trail-a-bikes. Clearly, this was a very bikey crowd.

We rode west on NW 57th St., one of our candidates for a neighborhood greenway. It’s always fun riding with such a big group. We can chat with folks, admire the different bikes and swap stories. Of course we’re still careful about traffic, but we don’t really have to worry about visibility with a group of this size! We took 28th Ave NW and then Market St. to the Ballard Locks, where we had to dismount to cross the canal. There is no denying that this was a production. The walkways across the locks are relatively narrow – there’s just enough room for a bike and pedestrian to cross each other. A group of cargo and family bikes takes a long time to cross. Fortunately, traffic was very light – there aren’t many tourists out on a chilly November morning.

The locks were still pumped dry for their annual maintenance. We could see a few folks working away at the bottom, which gives a sense of how big it really is. The barnacles clinging to the wall were starting to get rather stinky by this point. It didn’t seem to bother the crows and gulls, though – they were still enjoying their sushi.

See the three white dots? Those are the workers in their white hard hats.

After many photos and three separate bathroom breaks, we were finally ready to continue on our way. We rode along Commodore Way and through Fisherman’s Terminal. It’s a light industrial area without a bike lane, but the road is relatively wide and there was hardly any traffic. We arrived under the Ballard Bridge just in time for the opening ceremony. A good sized crowd of cyclists and walkers had gathered by this time.

Peter Hahn, the head of SDOT, gave a speech and cut the ribbon with very big pair of scissors.

However, for our group, the big attraction was Julian’s thermos of hot apple cider to warm those chilly fingers.

Before too long, we were on our way. I don’t have any photos of the new trail, yet, but there’s a nice one here. It’s a pleasant ride that I’ll definitely check out again and will be my preferred route between the Pier 91 trail and the Fremont Bridge. However, there is a rather annoying double 2-curve to cross the train tracks. I know they need to slow bike traffic down and direct folks to cross at a right angle, but this really seems excessive. Still, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise great trail.

After crossing back across the Fremont Bridge, we split up to get food and then met again at the Fremont Brewery. This was my first time there, and I’m delighted to discover such a cool place. It’s a local microbrewery which makes absolutely delicious beer. It’s a tasting room, not a full-fledged bar and they don’t sell food, but allow you to bring your own it. It’s really a big room with picnic tables at one end and big, shiny vats at the other, but seemed cosy and friendly. It’s also remarkably family-friendly – they even have a couple of baskets of toys! Only in Seattle. Sadly, I have no good photos from this part of the trip, so you’ll have to take my word for it until you can go there yourself.

After food, a beer and lots of chatting and tracking down stray children, it was time to go. We’d had a full day and I knew we were in the pre-melt down phase. Plus, Spencer was getting tired too. We weren’t the only ones who’d had enough. Thirty seconds earlier, this little guy had been flopped over the edge of his bucket seat. If only I’d been able to get my camera out earlier…..

It was a great group and a terrific ride. I hope we can do it again soon! And I did buy my son a new winter coat the next day.

The 6-year old urban planner

The 6-year old urban planner

http://seattlebikeblog.com/2010/11/30/poisoned-sharrow/

My son is a chatterbox. He can keep up a running commentary about dinosaurs, Star Wars, Spiderman and more, interrupted only to ask me to read signs to him. I will confess to tuning out sometimes – when I’m driving or cycling, I need to pay attention to the road and I really don’t care why Spiderman is SO COOL. However, it’s worth reserving at least some of my attention for him, because every now and then he comes up with a few gems.

Last weekend, we were driving to soccer practice in the Queen Anne neighborhood. As we turned onto Nickerson Drive, we slowed down.

Spencer asked “Why are we going so slow? Go faster, Mommy!”

Me “There’s a bike ahead of us. We can’t go faster until it’s safe to pass him.”

Spencer “Why isn’t he in the bike lane?”

Me “Well, there isn’t a bike lane here. We have sharrows, special markings saying that cars and bikes have to be careful and share the same lane. See, here it turns into a bike lane, so we have more room and I can pass him”.

I passed the cyclist and had a minute or so of silence while Spencer looked out the window. Then he spoke up again.

“Why is the bike lane here and then gone, and then here and then gone again?  That’s too confusing!”

Indeed.

Things I see on my bike

Things I see on my bike

My cell phone camera’s not great (early generation iphone), but I can’t resist taking photos of interesting things I see while riding my bike around town. When crossing the Ballard Locks on my way home today, I saw a huge tug boat with a really big crane on top of it. Once I reached the side, I got as close as I could to the safety barrier to try to figure out what was going on. If you look closely, you can see that the crane is lifting what looks like a wall. This is actually one of the doors of the large locks. I had  no idea that it was possible to remove these gates. Apparently, it’s part of the annual maintenance plan. I wish I could have gone closer for a better look, but wasn’t about to climb the safety barrier.
I’ve seen this cargo bike in the bike locker room at work. I’ve never seen it move, regardless of what time I’m there, and I was beginning to worry that it might be abandoned. Well, earlier this week, I met it’s owner. I saw a fellow hooking up a kid trailer behind his bike and, hoping to find a kindred spirit, started chatting him up. It turns out that he is also the owner of the SUVelo. He bought it used and is gradually rebuilding it, but doesn’t have room in his garage. Yay for family riding!
Speaking of family riding, when I passed by JRA Bike Shop last week, I saw not one, but three, different brands of longtail bikes. A Yuba, a Sun, and, er, something else that I forgot to write down. Sorry. You’ll have to go there in person to find out what it is. It’s worth the trip though – we’ve bought bikes and had work done there and have always been treated well.

This is not bike related, but made me laugh. You know that a local sculture has reached icon status when there is a Chia pet version of it. I wonder if they sell any of these outside of Seattle?
Those are all the photos that I have, but I want to share two other things that I’ve experienced. First, a Papa John’s delivery car smells like pizza, even from the outside. Second, the local doughnut shop bakes at about 10 pm and you can smell the doughnuts for blocks. I wouldn’t have learned either from inside my car. 
Happy riding!
Moving Planet Seattle

Moving Planet Seattle

Saturday was the Moving Planet Seattle Event. The theme was transportation, so it was fitting that folks met around the city for group rides to Lake Union Park. About 20 of us met in Ballard for the ride, including three families.
Our trail-a-bike.

A kindred spirit had an Xtracycle.
A tandem bike completed the set.

Our fearless leaders set the pace in the awesome, traffic-stopping conference bike from the Dutch Bike Company. This beast is mighty, but slow and a tad too wide for the trails. So, we took a traffic lane and made a slow parade to Lake Union Park, with enthusiastic waving and bell-ringing at passersby. Once there, the group dispersed to explore the different events, though we did run into each other throughout the day. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

The conference bike in all its glory.
The Center for Wooden Boats had wooden sailboats for kids to play with on the boat pool. Spencer was so excited to see the boats, that I could barely get him to leave long enough to lock up our bike. We probably spent 20-30 minutes there.
I was more excited to see this bike, which looked suspiciously familiar….

After looking around for likely suspects, I took a deep breath and asked “Hey, are you the Family Ride blogger? I recognize your bike.” Yes! It was Madi from Family Ride, who was friendly, charming and  happy to talk about bikes, boats and kids. She asked if I’d been on some of the Totcycle rides, because I looked “sort of familiar”. After a minute, she realized that she’d seen us here on the blog. That, my friends, is the kind of fame that blogging can bring you! 
Jennifer and Madi, who both looked “sort of familiar”.
Spencer eventually had his fill of the boats, so we wandered off to see more sites. Along the way, he was caught by the plastic bag man. The costume was made from 500 bags, but he’d lost a few along the way. Kids just couldn’t resist trying to pull them off. At least, my kid couldn’t. And I did make him stop and give them back.

There was a great kids’ craft table, which spawned many masterpieces. A fish doesn’t need a bicycle, unless, of course, it’s a bicycle powered by cocktail umbrellas.
I was delighted to run into my friend Arvia. The folks at the family bike expo talked her into taking the kids for a spin in this:
I tried it out as well. It was reasonably easy to pedal, at least on flat pavement, but quite tricky to turn. It has an extremely wide turning radius and you end up leaning over ridiculously far. It felt like I was about to fall over, but it’s really quite steady. Not exactly a practical bike for most people, though. 
Some bikes were made just for fun:
More crazy bike-like objects.
Oh, yeah, there was also a rally:
Mike McGinn, Mayor of Seattle

We listened for a while, but when Spencer tried to take a nap in my lap, I knew it was time to go. All in all, it was a great event on a beautiful day. The organizers did a good job of combining fun, family activities with real activism and awareness, a tricky thing to balance.

Test Rides!

Test Rides!

There are two little bike shops near my house that have been tempting me for months. I finally made time this weekend to test ride a couple of bikes. The first store is a classic LBS with a variety of bikes chained out front – road bikes, hybrids, city cruisers, kids bikes and more. The one that caught my eye, though, is the red Xtracycle. I’ve seen a few around the city and I know people who swear by them for transporting kids and cargo. I was especially curious to see how it compared to riding with a trail-a-bike.

I first tried it up and down the block on my own to see how it handled. My first impression – it’s solid. The trail-a-bike has a slight side-to-side wobble, no matter how much you tighten the screws. I’ve gotten used to it, but have to admit that the Xtracycle did feel more secure. However, it is long, so you still have to allow for a much wider turning radius. Still, it didn’t seem to take much to get get used to it, so I rode back to the shop and picked up my passenger.

Adding a passenger didn’t change the handling much, aside from the extra weight. It still felt solid and secure. The bike isn’t light, but it’s not as heavy as I expected. It’s heavier than Ye Olde Mountaine Byckke, but not by much, and it’s considerably lighter than the Byckke plus the trail-a-bike. I didn’t want to take it out too far, since it didn’t have the foot rest attached, and I was worried Spencer might kick the chain. Because of that, I really can’t call this a thorough review, but it did make a good first impression. I had no problem getting up the gentle hill back to the bike shop, but didn’t test out any serious hills. It’s hard to say whether I’d miss the extra push from the back seat or not, given the diffence in weight. However, it definitely has better “hop on and go” vs. a trail-a-bike, especially since I usually detach them and lock them together.

Spencer found the back seat comfortable. It’s well padded and cushioned the bumps in the road, not that I was deliberately aiming for them. At least not many.

When asked what it was like to ride, he said “Easy!”

Me: How did it feel?

Spencer: Good!

Me: Do you like this one better or the trail-a-bike?

Spencer: This one. I don’t have to pedal so my legs don’t get tired!

Hmph. And here I thought he might get bored without his own pedals. Active transport my @$%……

The next stop was two doors down at an electric assist bicycle shop. This shop, which opened about 6 months ago, carries the Ohm bike, made in Vancouver. After a little chitchat and signing a waiver, I was out the door on their city commuter bike, while the store employee rode the sport version beside me.

The commuter bike is a solidy built bike, that feels quite upright and cushioned. It’s heavy – about 53 lbs – and, with the low center of gravity from the battery, it feels very stable. It handled smoothly on turns, though I didn’t try any particularly aggressive moves. The electric assist controls were very intuitive and easy to use. I didn’t notice much with the two lowest settings – it just seems to take off a little bit of weight. Settings 3 and 4 are pretty cool, though. At first, I slowed down, expecting the motor to pick up the slack, but I quickly ground to a halt. The motor actually multiplies the effect from each pedal stroke, so the harder you push, the harder it goes. Once I started pedaling, I could really feel it pulling the bike forward. I still had to work to get up a steep hill, but not nearly as much – I was able to keep up a conversation and go much faster. The bike was very quiet and free of vibrations.

Although I’m not looking for an electric assist bike right now, I can see the appeal – it would makes Seattle hills much more manageable. If I had to tow kids daily or if I developed a health issue that made a regular bike too much effort, it would be a great option. Or, of course, if I ever move to Phinney Ridge. The downside is the price – at $2800 US, it’s a pretty expensive bike. I’ve never tried another electric assist bike, so I can’t say how it compares to others. It did rides well, though, and was a lot of fun.

This was my “test ride a different kind of bike than you normally ride” entry for the LGRAB Summer Games.

Musical Bells

Musical Bells

On our way home from last week’s group ride, Spencer started to complain about his handlebars. I stopped to investigate and, sure enough, they were a little loose. “Well,” I told him, “I don’t have any tools with me. We’re close to home, so just hold them carefully and I’ll fix it when we get there.” That worked for less than a block before he started to shout again. I told him to hold them up and that I would ride very slowly and gently.

When we finally got home, I was shocked at how loose the handlebars had become. It was particularly embarrassing, since I had just been leading a bicycle advocacy group ride. Thank goodness the problem didn’t develop until we were on our own and almost home! I was also very surprised; I’m pretty good at remembering to check that the connection to my bike is secure and that the pedals are screwed in tight, but I’d never had a problem with this connection before. However, if you look at the photo below, it was so loose that the handle bars could spin right around and slide from side to side.

Fortunately, a quick twist with a hex wrench tightened everything up. I may need to start carrying a bike-combo tool with me.That was finished quickly, so I decided to do the other job that I’d been meaning to get around to – musical bells! Spencer has now outgrown his 16″ wheeler, so we decided to move the bell to the trail-a-bike.



Ta da! Secure handlebars and a bell that lights up!

Next, I re-installed a Bell bell on Ye Olde Mountaine Byckke. I had tried to put the bell on my road bike, but it never fit well on the handlebars, so back it goes.

Finally, a shiny new bell was installed on Spencer’s new 20″ wheeler.Because a boy this proud of his new bike deserves a shiny new bell to go with it!

This is my “perform a maintenance task on your bike” entry for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games.